Carol Burnett reclaims her throne -- The legendary comedian talks about her new TV movie ''Once Upon a Mattress''

By Paul Katz
Updated December 16, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Nearly 40 years ago, The Carol Burnett Show secured its star’s place among television royalty. But only now is Carol Burnett taking on her rightful role as the Queen of Comedy. The seven-time Emmy winner ascends to the throne as power-mad monarch Queen Aggravain in Disney’s Once Upon a Mattress.

Burnett has a long history with the musical, which is based on the tale of ”The Princess and the Pea”: She originated the role of Princess Winnifred in the 1959 Off Broadway and Broadway runs, and reprised it for two TV versions, in 1964 and 1972. Ever since, the comedian has been pining to play the queen, who forces her son’s potential wives to undertake impossible tasks. Finding a younger actress to fill Burnett’s shoes as Winnifred proved tough, naturally.

”Not to fault ABC, but they wanted to go after some girl who does MTV,” laments Burnett, 72, who also serves as an executive producer. ”We needed real musical-comedy chops. It’s more than just getting up in front of a camera and wiggling around? although those girls wiggle very well.” (Too bad for you, Britney!)

So Burnett turned to the star of another critically acclaimed variety series — a woman also known for singing, dancing, and making with the funny: Tracey Ullman. ”When Tracey agreed,” she recalls, ”I was cartwheeling in my mind.” Then it was time for Burnett to pull out a sequined weapon from her past. ”I got Bob Mackie, who worked on my show for 11 years, to design my outfits,” she says. ”He made me into a cross between a medieval Joan Collins and a drag queen.”

Does this mean the queen will hold court again on Broadway? ”Tracey and I talked about it, but I’m not hot to trot. Maybe a limited engagement. We’d love a matinee-only run for the blue-haired ladies.” Hey, we’d dye for it.

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